Meditation is well known for its therapeutic and health effects. But many people find meditation a difficult skill to develop. There are all kinds of reasons for it, everything from environment to diet can make meditation harder to accomplish. However, there are some ways to access the benefits of meditation without actually learning to meditate in the first place. One such method is to use an ultrasound device to get the same effects you get from meditation. To discover just how this works and why it might be an option for you check out the article below!
The way this works is by targeting a certain area of your prefrontal cortex with ultrasound waves. When this is done to healthy subjects it has been shown to elevate their mood at least according to a team of researchers at the University of Arizona. This is done by specifically targeting the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. Specifically the right inferior frontal gyrus. Which is an area of the brain that is thought to be fundamental in mood and emotional regulation. In general, increased activity in the frontal gyrus correlates with reduced negative emotional experiences.
This is done by using ultrasound. Ultrasound is typically used for medical imaging and you are probably familiar with it for how they see a fetus inside of a pregnant woman’s stomach. The ultrasound consists of vibration in the range of a megahertz. A megahertz is a million waves per second which is well above what the human ear and mind can process. We are limited to only 20 thousand waves a second so the jump to a million is more than just substantial.
These waves normally echo off of interior structures and provide a source of imaging for doctors and clinicians. Although the skull puts up a pretty substantial defense, ultrasound is able to pass through when it is targeted and focused on specific areas of the brain that are known to be at certain depths inside the skull.
By focusing these ultra high frequency waves on parts of the brain, it is possible to excite or accelerate the activity that is occurring in that structure of the brain. This is most often done to help with neural communication which leads to an overall benefit in terms of mental and psychological health. This can be done with ultrasounds in a pain free and safe manner that is free from the unfortunate side effects so many mental health treatments are known for.
Brain stimulation through ultrasound is referred to as neuromodulation. I love this because it makes me think of modulating in music, typically changing keys, and how modulating your mind is like changing keys in music. You can modulate from a sad minor key to a happy major key in music, and by using ultrasound you can modulate the activity in your brain structures to help modulate your mood and emotions the same as you can in a song. While it's not nearly that simple, it is a comparison that helps me visualize the way that neuromodulation works.
Ultrasound can cause neuromodulation because mechanical vibrations can happen at a frequency high enough to alter brain function. The frequency is so high in these vibrations that it spurs increased neural activity in the region of the brain the ultrasound is focused on. An increase in neural activity can help balance out a part of the brain that is performing below what is required, or even just an area of the brain that is communicating clearly with the others. Either way a variety of mental health disorders are associated with low levels of neural activity. Using neuromodulation that increases their activity levels could rarely be a bad thing.
Scientists are currently working on a way to create neuromodulation devices that can be used to enhance well being by treating psychiatric diseases and different neurological disorders. The research shows that meditation has many pronounced health benefits. Both psychologically as well as on your physical health. Because of this scientists are interested in how we can make the benefits of mediation easier to access and with a higher rate of return?
One potential method is by using ultrasound to target the area of the brain that benefits from meditation. Experiments with over 200 hundred volunteers showed that a transcranial ultrasound (TUS) was able to influence mood and accelerate mindfulness proficiency in healthy participants. Targeting the inferior frontal gyrus with ultrasound not only enhances mood, it also enhances overall emotional states, and function connectivity. This is huge because this is practically what you want to get from meditation. So not only can we access some of the benefits of meditation without learning to meditate, if we do learn to meditate, we are able to gather the benefits from meditation much more efficiently and with greater ease due to ultrasound.
By stimulating that area of the brain when we are also meditating or learning to meditate, simply helps to compound the effects from one or the other. The transcranial ultrasound is useful on its own, and meditation is useful on its own, but the idea is that by combining the two we may end up with something that is more than the sum of its parts. Which means that we can greatly increase access to all of the mental and emotional health benefits that mediation provides with greater ease. Which would honestly be a huge turning point for mental health treatment around the world.
Using ultrasound to get the effects of meditation is a tricky process. There is still a lot about the structure and chemistry of the brian that is not understood. However, a transcranial ultrasound has been shown to improve mood and functional connectivity with almost no reported negative side effects. Combining TSU with meditation may be the key to the future of mental health care. A service that is free from negative health outcomes that are so strongly associated with the pharmaceutical industry.